Outgoing President Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to the U.S. as long as he remains in office. Vice President Mike Pence should invoke the 25th Amendment without delay, joined by a majority of Trump's own Cabinet as needed to remove him from office.
It's important that Trump's own running mate and his appointees lead the effort to decisively repudiate a president who has broken his oath to preserve, protect and defend this nation and its laws while fomenting rebellion and inciting violence in his zeal to retain power. The message would be unmistakable to all who may still harbor support for Trump: He is a discredited leader, unfit for office and unworthy of future support.
Trump has built a fanatical element of followers during his years in office, feeding them lie upon lie, grooming them to distrust every word but his own, to abandon facts and evidence in favor of slavish devotion to a leader who has betrayed them and his own country. That movement, such as it ever was, appears to want to establish not an elected government, but a dictatorship. Following the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, a handful of Republicans have stepped up to repudiate him, but shockingly few. Far too many remain in thrall — or in fear — of Trump.
The Star Tribune Editorial Board does not make this recommendation lightly. Adopted in 1967, the 25th Amendment deals with presidential succession and disability. But Section 4 — which allows the vice president to initiate transfer of powers from the president, essentially removing him from office — has never been employed.
It is time.
After last week's insurrection and invasion at the Capitol and the mob's threats to kill Pence and other leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi conferred with military leaders in an attempt to prevent Trump from doing irreparable damage in his final days, such as launching a nuclear strike. Once such a prospect is contemplated, removal is the obvious step.
As U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, said, "There's no question the president formed the mob, the president incited the mob, the president addressed the mob. He lit the flame."
He did indeed, and now it is up to Pence and Congress to snuff it out.
House Republicans should reconsider the rash move they made on Monday to block unanimous consent for a resolution calling on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment. The resolution is likely to come to the floor for a Tuesday vote. Pelosi has made clear that if Pence refuses to take action, the House could move to impeach Trump a second time, with a vote coming as early as Wednesday.
As the Editorial Board argued on Friday, one disadvantage of impeachment is that it's a process designed to move slowly, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell already has said a Senate trial would not begin before Jan. 19 — Trump's last day in office. A prolonged impeachment process could hamper the new administration's efforts to move the country forward, and so far Biden has sent mixed signals on his desires.
Yet there must be consequences for the Jan. 6 attack, which risked the lives of Pence and members of Congress, ended in five deaths, and weakened this country in the eyes of allies and adversaries across the world.
That will require a full criminal investigation of those who participated in, aided or abetted the insurrection. The U.S. Attorney for D.C. has said that "all actors" who played a role would be investigated for possible criminal charges. Among those should be Trump, his sons and Rudy Giuliani, who exhorted the mob to embrace "trial by combat" in the effort to overturn the election. To prevent a recurrence, there should be a 9/11 Commission-style report that details who was behind the attack, who participated and what led to the poor security that was unable to hold off a mob.
But first and foremost, Trump should be removed from office. The vice president should act now.